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New York's Homeless 'Cluster Sites' to Become Affordable Housing

Conceived as a stop-gap measure, New York City's cluster site program essentially pays landlords to house homeless people. Now, Mayor de Blasio wants to convert some of those sites directly into affordable units.
January 4, 2018, 6am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Gregory James Van Raalte

Legal obligations require New York to house some of its homeless population, resulting in so-called "cluster sites" in private apartment buildings, with the city footing the bill. The shelter program has been controversial, attracting criticism for its costs, hazards to tenants, and general unsustainability.

However, Nikita Stewart writes, "Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city's reliance on the cluster sites has grown along with the rise in homelessness, which has arguably been the biggest failure of his tenure."

Under De Blasio's new plan, announced in December, "the city would use public financing to help nonprofits buy roughly a third of the apartments currently used for the homeless, and then convert the apartments into affordable units, helping the mayor fulfill two goals: lowering homelessness and adding to the city’s affordable housing stock." If landlords refuse to cooperate, eminent domain will apparently be an option.

In the article, Stewart discusses how de Blasio's policy decisions may have contributed to the problem, especially his early reluctance to open new homeless shelters. At the same time, a 2015 report found that cluster site landlords often overcharge the city with impunity. "The lucrative circumstances sometimes led landlords to drive out residents who were not homeless just so they could collect the larger payments from the city."

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Published on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 in The New York Times
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